North Korea has moved to blame South Korea for the postponement of separated family reunions, which were originally scheduled to take place at Mt. Geumgang starting this Wednesday.
In response to the Ministry of Unification’s terse statement calling “North Korea’s unilateral postponement of the family reunions” a “crime against humanity,” the North stated that it is in actual fact the South who has committed a humanitarian crime.
A spokesperson for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) declared that the delaying of the reunions and working-level meetings on restarting Mt. Geumgang tours are “products of the puppet clique’s heinous machinations of confrontation against its own people, and responsibility for this lies solely at the feet of the South Chosun conservative party.”
The North further asserted that the Ministry of Unification’s statement was merely “a move against the people to prevent the improvement of North-South Korean relations by avoiding responsibility and inciting hostility and bad feelings toward us.”
“[South Korea] has no right to talk to us about humanitarianism,” the North continued. “The North-South humanitarian projects that that have been executed thus far are due to our leadership and efforts, not the South Chosun authorities. Our position and will remain the same; to lessen the pain and suffering of our countrymen by progressing with North-South humanitarian events, and moving toward an improvement in our bilateral relations.”
South Korea was summarily condemned: “Members of the puppet gang are intolerable criminals against humanity who defy our human-focused sincerity and effort through heinous, confrontational, and rash behavior.”
The statement emphasized, “We hope for the resolution of the North-South problem and an improvement in relations, including this particular humanitarian project. Yet we cannot stay quiet about confrontational and rash behavior that aims to hurt even a small amount of our dignity and pride.”
“The South should think hard about what they have done, keeping in mind that our warning is not simply empty words. The future progress of North-South relations is completely dependent on the attitude of the South Chosun authorities.”
The decision to postpone the separated family reunions and the Mt. Geumgang working-level talks was made via a statement by the CPRF on September 21st. The North claimed the South was using inter-Korean dialogue to incite confrontation, declaring, ““We are postponing the impending separated families and relatives reunions on the North-South schedule until such time as a normal atmosphere for the conducting of dialogue and negotiation is in place.”
Some North Korea observers see the unilateral delay as a move to gain the upper hand in inter-Korean dialogue, as Pyongyang may have felt it had given too much way during prior negotiations over the Kaesong Industrial Complex. While North Korea would like to see the reopening of Mt. Geumgang tours, it may fear more the risk of being dragged along by the South.
One North Korea expert told Daily NK, “The indefinite delay in the family reunions is yet another test for the South Korean government. The South will need to avoid falling victim to North Korea’s negotiation strategy of linking separated family reunions with the restarting of Mt. Geumgang tourism, and work to engage the North in dialogue.”
The Park Geun Hye administration should take a “two-pronged approach”, the anonymous expert suggested. “First, it should create negative public sentiment toward North Korea’s postponing of the reunions both at home and abroad, just as it did during the Kaesong Complex negotiations when it repeatedly demanded that North Korea engage in dialogue. Second, the government should work to maintain its leadership position by continuing to urge the North to come to the negotiating table.”